You are here

The Secret History of Tree Spiking, Part 3

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 11, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Note: The Secret History of Tree Spiking Part 1 and Part 2 were written by Judi Bari in 1993.

Twenty-five years ago, a group of Earth First!ers, including Judi Bari, Darryl Cherney, and Earth First! co-founder Mike Roselle held a press release in Samoa, California (a small town west of Eureka, in Humboldt County, northwestern California) at the Louisiana-Pacific lumber mill and export dock. There, they issued the following statement:

In response to the concerns of loggers and mill-workers, Northern California Earth First! organizers are renouncing the tactic of tree spiking in our area. Through the coalitions we have been building with lumber workers, we have learned that the timber corporations care no more for the lives of their employees than they do for the life of the forest. Their routine maiming and killing of mill workers is coldly calculated into the cost of doing business, just as the destruction of whole ecosystems is considered a reasonable by-product of lumber production.

These companies would think nothing of sending a spiked tree through a mill, and relish the anti-Earth First! publicity that an injury would cause.

Since Earth First! is not a membership organization, it is impossible to speak for all Earth First!ers. But this decision has been widely discussed among Earth First!ers in our area, and the local sentiment is overwhelmingly in favor of renouncing tree-spiking. We hope that our influence as organizers will cause any potential tree-spikers to consider using a different method. We must also point out that we are not speaking for all Earth First! groups in this pronouncement. Earth First! is decentralized, and each group can set its own policies. A similar statement to this one renouncing tree spiking is now being made in Southern Oregon, but not all groups have reached the broad consensus we have on this issue.

But in our area, the loggers and mill workers are our neighbors, and they should be our allies, not our adversaries. Their livelihood is being destroyed along with the forest. The real conflict is not between us and the timber workers, it is between the timber corporation and our entire community.

We want to give credit for this change in local policy to the rank and file timber workers who have risked their jobs and social relations by coming forward and talking to us. This includes Gene Lawhorn of Roseburg Lumber in Oregon, who defied threats to appear publicly with Earth First! organizer Judi Bari. It also includes the Georgia Pacific, Louisiana Pacific, and Pacific Lumber employees who are members of IWW Local #1 in northern California.

Equipment sabotage is a time-honored tradition among industrial workers. It was not invented by Earth First!, and it is certainly not limited to Earth First! even in our area. But the target of monkey wrenching was always intended to be the machinery of destruction, not the workers who operate that machinery for $7/hour. This renunciation of tree spiking is not a retreat, but rather an advance that will allow us to stop fighting the victims and concentrate on the corporations themselves.”

For those not familiar with the tactic of "tree spiking", Earth First cofounder Dave Foreman describes the act in great detail in the book, EcoDefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching. While that text is not official Earth First! literature--in the sense that Earth First!, as a loose ad hoc organization that prefers to think of itself as a movement, has long distanced themselves from the text, and Dave Foreman, due to the latter's borderline racist and classist perspectives, has long been associated with Earth First!, and Earth First! has long been associated (for better or worse) with Tree Spiking, and to this day, there are many Earth First!ers who continue to support the tactic, or--at least--choose not to renounce it.

Not surprisingly, the renunciation of it by the northwestern California Earth First!ers set off a firestorm of--often quite rancorous--debate within the Earth First! movement which continues to this day.

In fact, tree spiking is a very old tactic, predating Earth First! (which formed in 1979) by at least a century. It was primarily used by timber workers themselves--usually in acts of individual sabotage against their employers, primarily as a means for venting anger above all else, though on occasion, they used the tactic collectively. It is, however, not true that the IWW lumber workers invented (or used) the tactic, as was often believed by many (including Judi Bari). That notion was created by the capitalists in an attempt to discredit the IWW, because of the latter's advocacy of the tactic of "sabotage" (which meant--as far as the IWW was concerned--the organized collective withdrawal of efficiency at the point of production, rather than the destruction of the machinery of production--which the bosses claimed) as Ralph Chaplin described in 1917:

The prosecution used the historic meaning of the word to prove that we drove spikes into logs, copper tacks into fruit trees, and practiced all manner of arson, dynamiting and wanton destruction. Thanks to our own careless use of the word, the prosecution’s case seemed plausible to the jury and the public.” (emphasis added)

To be certain, nobody associated with Earth First! in any of the northwestern California Earth First! groups throughout the entire region (known as either the "North Coast" or Ecotopia") had ever actually engaged in the act of tree spiking either--whether they supported the use of the tactic or not individually--preferring instead to engage in other forms of direct action, including primarily logging road blockades, tree-sits, forest occupations, and paper monkeywrenching the (mostly corrupt and broken) government agencies charged with forest oversight. This was true well before Judi Bari joined Earth First! (and, at nearly the same time, the IWW) in late summer of 1988. It's also notable that--while the degree of reciprocation varied, depending on the individual worker--these Earth First!ers most actively attempted to reach out to and ally themselves with the timber workers employed by the corporations that they sought to thwart, in the companies' attempts to clearcut the last remaining old growth redwood forest stands in the region (and the world, for that matter).

That the Earth First!ers were able to build these alliances at all was itself incredible, given the fact that northwestern California was ground zero for tree spiking related controversy. Although, Earth First! had never engaged in the tactic in this region, in Spring of 1987, somebody--and to this day, it's still not known for sure who--did, and the action resulted in the near decapitation of a (non union) Louisiana Pacific mill worker--specifically an "offbearer"--named George Alexander. Louisiana-Pacific, naturally, blamed Earth First!, and the other timber corporations based in the region, particularly the Maxxam controlled Pacific Lumber, and the compliant capitalist media, piled on. L-P even went as far as posting a reward in the amount of $20,000 for the apprehension of the guilty party (but, at the same time, refused to put more than $9,000 towards covering the victim's medical expenses). However, when all of the evidence pointed to either a lone, right wing nutjob--with no affiliations to environmentalists of any sort, or deliberate false flag activity by L-P itself (the tree was spiked after it had been logged, as evidenced by the location of the spike), and after the injured mill worker--who was actually fairly sympathetic to Earth First!, and was highly critical of L-P's unsafe working environment in the mill in which he worked--refused to let the company use him as a poster child for their anti-Earth First! propaganda, the story quickly disappeared, at least in the region.  However, the timber industry milked the incident as much as they could elsewhere, where the specific details and the evidence exonerating Earth First! were not well known.

One of the timber workers who had heard such rhetoric was a (union) millworker from Oregon named Gene Lawhorn.  Originally he marched in lockstep with the bosses, until the latter tried to bust the union in his mill, and he noticed that some of the supporters that joined the union's picketline were outspoken Earth First!ers (these same Earth First!ers would later join the northwestern California Earth First!ers in renouncing tree spiking). That the Earth First!ers were there at all had a lot to do with the fact that after the incident involving George Alexander, an IWW member from Washington State named Barbara Hansen--who had friends active in Earth First! there, but personally opposed tree spiking--suggested an alliance between the radical environmental movement and the IWW in February 1988, a suggestion which was followed in a big way in May 1988, coincidentally happening just as Judi Bari was becoming interested in joining both herself.

Lawhorn helped forge connections between environmentalists and timber workers from the timber workers' side of things, and as northwestern California Earth First!ers--led primarily by Judi Bari--formed stronger and stronger ties with timber workers critical of the timber industry, Lawhorn inevitably became involved in these efforts. There was one problem, however, and that was that Darryl Cherney--though he, himself, never spiked trees and also supported the forging of alliances with timber workers--as one of Earth First!'s most prolific songwriters, had co-written a song with Mike Roselle titled "Spike a Tree for Jesus". Though the song was obviously satire (and most likely an attempt to ridicule the propaganda used against Earth First!), and even though most of Cherney's more serious Earth First! songs were very pro-timber worker and pro-class struggle, that song greatly offended Lawhorn, who threw down the gauntlet in March 1990 at the annual Public Interest Environment Law Conference (PIELC) in Eugene, Oregon (an event at which Judi Bari had encouraged him to speak, in spite of opposition from his class collaborationist business union leadership), and challenged Judi Bari to renounce tree spiking, to demonstrate--as a leader in the alliance building efforts--that she was willing to put her money where her mouth was. Without hesitation, Bari boldly did just that, and further pledged to convince her fellow Earth First!ers to do the same. The April 11 statement was the result of that pledge.

Therefore renunciation of tree spiking (even though the tactic had never been used by Earth First! there) was well received by the timber workers most sympathetic to Earth First! (and there were quite a lot by April 1990, for reasons which I detail elsewhere), but at the same time, it was thoroughly castigated by the old guard within Earth First!. For example, the Earth First! Journal, then still edited by what many rank and file Earth First!ers referred to as "a junta" loyal to Dave Foreman (who was increasingly critical of the northwestern California Earth First! groups due to their attempts to integrate green-syndicalist perspectives into the biocentric deep ecology to which he had hoped Earth First! would remain dedicated), inserted the following editorial preface to their publication (in the Beltane / May 1 1990 issue) of the above renunciation:

In a move that has left some EF!ers confused or dismayed, several West Coast Earth First! groups have renounced tree-spiking. At press conferences held in mid April, the groups called upon activists to refrain from spiking trees in northern California and Oregon forests. This whole issue is very controversial...and we do not intend to cover the inevitable debate in EF! Journal. Below we simply reprint Northern California EF!’s press release—so that EF!ers will know what the groups actually said, not just what the rumors are saying—and, we urge interested EF!ers to contact the groups and individuals involved for more information. For a compelling letter in opposition to the treespiking renunciation, write Colorado EF! contact Michael Robinson. For arguments in support of the renunciation, contact North Coast EF! groups or Southern Willamette EF!

Yet, the Earth First! Journal did ultimately publish some of the debate three issues later (Mabon / September 22, 1990 issue). Sea-Shepherd co-founder Captain Paul Watson presented a rambling and rather incoherent "defense" of the tactic, even going as far as to claim that he had invented it and proposed it to Mike Roselle (in spite of the fact that history clearly shows otherwise, and to emphasize the point, Judi Bari would often show other Earth First!ers a spiked log in the Ukiah Saw Shop which had been reportedly spiked by an unknown Wobbly in the 1910s--though there is no proof of this having been an act carried out by an IWW member either). Watson's arguments were hardly convincing of his intended point, that spiking was either necessary or that it didn't harm timber workers, and for the most part, his statements were more a wholesale condemnation of northwestern California Earth First! in general. 

It's important to understand the broader context in which these arguments were made, of course. Less than two months after the tree spiking renunciation, on May 24, 1990, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were nearly assassinated by an anti-personnel bomb, placed in Bari's automobile, by a still unknown perpetrator, but likely an individual working for the timber corporations targeted by northwestern California Earth First!ers vetted by the FBI's COINTELPRO program, and these facts are now well-established. The bombing itself happened at the beginning of a summer-long campaign of civil disobedience, targeting these timber corporations--primarily, but not limited to, Georgia Pacific, Louisiana Pacific, and the Maxxam-controlled Pacific Lumber. In spite of the bombing, Redwood Summer was fairly successful, at least in drawing international attention to the issue, and it did--to some extent--slow down the pace of the rapacious slaughter of the old growth redwoods, some of which are still preserved to this day, because of efforts that began with (or continued with) it, but Redwood Summer itself was not universally supported by everyone in Earth First!

This was due to many factors: (1) Redwood Summer was a coalition effort involving many other organizations and groups, including primarily the IWW and Seeds of Peace; (2) It emphasized intersectionality, including eco-feminism, indigenous sovereignty, green populism, and green syndicalism in addition to deep ecology--a broadening of Earth First!'s message which Dave Foreman and those loyal to him (of which, Watson was one) opposed; (3) It employed increasing use of mass demonstrations and nonviolent civil disobedience, and though it also allowed for backwoods direct actions, it prohibited monkeywrenching of logging equipment (not just tree spiking), thus pushing Earth First! away from being a small band of roving guerilla saboteurs--a process that had been unfolding for some time, that Foreman and his supporters resisted. 

It didn't help matters that Foreman and Bari often didn't see eye to eye on matters of political philosophy or strategy. Foreman, though not the exclusive founder of Earth First! (Roselle and three others had just as much contributed to that) was still regarded by many as its principle spokesman and leader, and he was not always quick to counter those perspectives. Furthermore, Foreman's political journey that led to the founding of Earth First! was anything but conventional. He had been, for much of his young adulthood, an activist of the political right, having once been a Goldwater Republican and a member of William F. Buckley's "Young Americans for Freedom". The Vietnam War and his experiences as a draftee made Foreman reconsider many of those views, and he did jettison some of them, but he never fully understood just how deeply his own philosophy, including his particular brand of deep ecology was colored by extremely reactionary perspectives, including those of Thomas Malthus (who was not an environmentalist) or Garrett Hardin (who was a white supremacist). Ironically, though it was Dave Foreman who initially injected IWW cultural memes into Earth First! (including the creation of a "Little Green Songbook" in homage to the IWW's "Little Red Songbook"), he clearly never got the central intent of the One Big Union, which was the overthrow of capitalism through class struggle at the point of production. Indeed, Foreman, in spite of claiming to be "neither left, nor right" in his Earth First! days remained quite hostile to "collectivist" economic philosophies and class struggle, including the syndicalism often practiced by the IWW.

These perspectives colored his views on timber workers which--even after Judi Bari showed they could be reliable allies of the Earth First! movement--he expressed thusly:

One of my biggest complaints about the workers up in the Pacific Northwest is that most of them aren’t ‘class conscious.’ That’s a big problem...The loggers are victims of an unjust economic system, yes, but that should not absolve them for everything they do...Indeed, sometimes it is the hardy swain, the sturdy yeoman from the bumpkin proletariat so celebrated in Wobbly (sic) lore who holds the most violent and destructive attitudes towards the natural world (and toward those who would defend it).

However, this was easily proven to be an unjustified dismissal of the timber workers. Perhaps the most reactionary among them indeed thought this way, but most didn't. For example, Walter Smith, one of the allies of Judi Bari had an entirely different perspective than the caricature imagined by Foreman:

We have a feeling for the place we work. We have a feeling for the land and the forest as a whole—as a place where we like to work because it is enjoyable to be there, because it is the forest. And in the hopes what our children will be back there doing the same work someday...On the other hand, there are ramifications we have no control over—the land owner. The landowner owns it, and he tells us how he wants it done. Of course, we have the option of not doing it. Then it becomes an option of economics: Do we want to work or do we not want to work?

We can’t influence (Louisiana-Pacific) at this time. We’re just ants on a big ant hill. We can give them our opinion, but that doesn’t really go very far. And as a matter of fact, a lot of times our opinion is held back because they do hold the strings. Not just L-P, all the timber companies. If you want to work, if you want to even sell the timber—we could get a job with a private land owner, say someone who wanted to do some tree thinning and a little forestry and we like the job and went to do it. If we’re on the shit list, that person isn’t going to be able to sell their logs if they know that we’re working for them. The timber industry can come down on people...

We complain sometimes about the fact that we don’t think the best job is being done, but we do it anyway and we try to do it as well as we can under the Forest Practice Rules that are in place at the present time...I think that a lot people often see loggers as being pretty heartless, go-getting people. They’re really hard working, that’s for sure. And I find that when it comes to wildlife, loggers will go out of their way to protect or avoid hurting forest animals. I don’t know too many loggers who would squash a squirrel on purpose or squash a fawn...

Judi Bari's journey to Earth First!, in contrast with Foreman, had led through the labor movement and Marxist economic theory, applied in struggle and direct action at the point of production. Indeed, as a postal worker in the Washington DC area in the mid 1970s, Bari had once participated in a prolonged series of direct actions at the point of production, engaging in the very sabotage the IWW once advocated, but also could be found in the pages of EcoDefense (though in a vastly different context). Instead of small bands of guerilla saboteurs, Bari envisioned Earth First! as a mass movement. She accepted Foreman's vision of Biocentric Deep Ecology (minus the racist and sexist baggage, of course), but had--in her opinion at least--a much deeper view that also included class struggle, and a recognition that capitalism itself was an inherently unsustainable economic system which couldn't be reconciled with the very deep ecology that Foreman advocated. To fight capitalism, Bari recognized, the workers exploited by it, would have to resist it in an organized fashion, and since Earth First! was already resisting it from outside the shop floor, it was essential for Earth First! to make alliances with anyone willing to resist it from the shop floor, and that included timber workers.

Dave Foreman would at times sometimes seem to agree, but his actions and his resistance to Bari's strategic initiatives suggested otherwise, and those that allied themselves most with Foreman, including Watson, opined dogmatically against such alliances. This was the case in Watson's "defense" of tree spiking which was not so much a defense of the tactic, but an utter condemnation of the intersectionality Bari advocated, as stated thusly:

Redwood Summer would have us believe that the loggers are not our enemy. Judi Bari considers them her allies while accusing me of being her enemy. The reality of her views are plain. She is acting from an anthropocentric ethical foundation and I am coming from a biocentric base.

The hands of the individual who has destroyed a tree are the hands of a person who has murdered a sacred citizen of this planet. Livelihood, material well-being, these are not sufficient justification for this crime against nature. Loggers are pathetic foot-soldiers to the corporate generals of the logging industry. Certainly they are being exploited by the companies, but they have made the decision to be exploited. The trees have not.

Anyone with even the shallowest understanding of economics knows that Watson's opinions are ludicrous. Nobody would voluntarily sell their labor to another, in exchange for less than the value of it, given the choice. Indeed, Watson's economic analysis reads almost like that of Ayn Rand.

Nobody else offered a defense of tree spiking in the Mabon 1990 Earth First! Journal. No doubt this was due, in large part, to the fact that the majority of that issue was given over to a much bigger controversy, namely Dave Foreman's "resignation" from Earth First! and the circular firing squad that resulted (which was ironic, given the fact that Foreman often accused the "left", which he disdained, of preferring to do that). However, to their credit, the editors of the Journal (who were mostly in Foreman's camp and threatening to quit also) allowed someone to offer a counterpoint, and that someone was Gene Lawhorn, by this time, (in spite of Foreman's "bumpkin proletariat" stereotype) himself a fully committed Earth First!er.

In the next few years, the debate would continue to rage on. In spite of the overwhelming evidence that renouncing tree spiking made good strategic sense, no other Earth First! chapters outside of northwestern California or southern Oregon would ever renounce it (though most chapters, regardless of their belief, never used the tactic after 1990). Judi Bari tried, many times, to push the other Earth First! groups to follow in the footsteps of those that did--and she had good reason for doing so, because if the entire Earth First! movement had renounced tree spiking, it would probably have made it easier to forge alliances with timber workers outside of "Ecotopia".

The explanations that individual Earth First!ers and other chapters gave for refusing to agree to Bari's proposals varied. The most common reason given was that such a renunciation denied eco-defenders an effective tactic against logging. Though perhaps not as reactionary in their outlook towards timber workers as Dave Foreman and Paul Watson, many Earth First!ers believed that, while an alliance of timber workers that led to massed based struggle might be a worthwhile goal, it was nevertheless unlikely in the short term (if likely at all), and the urgency of the situation and the need to protect the increasingly small amount of old growth forest biomass in North America warranted the risk of losing potential allies. This reasoning was sometimes accompanied by skepticism that tree spiking, if the safety precautions proscribed by Foreman in EcoDefense, would actually cause injury to timber workers. And, to be fair, the person who spiked the tree that injured George Alexander, hadn't taken those precautions, and furthermore, the sawmill equipment that ultimately injured Alexander after coming in contact with the spiked log was already showing substantial signs of wear and tear--a major point of contention that Alexander had with his employers in the first place.

The debate gained further steam when Mike Roselle, one of the original signers of the renunciation publicly recanted his stance on the matter in late 1992, himself invoking the argument that the urgency of the situation, and citing frustration with the inability of Earth First! to make much of a dent in the assault on the remaining old growth forests by the capitalist timber machine.

In response to that, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney conducted extensive research into the known examples of tree spiking carried out since Earth First! first used the tactic in 1983 and arrived at two very significant conclusions. First of all, it mattered little whether or not the tree spiking had been carried out with the safety precautions advocated in EcoDefense. Even if the workers suffered no injury, and even if the tree spikers acted independently of Earth First!, the capitalists could usually create enough of a perception of danger to turn them against Earth First!, and often did. More importantly than that, however, Bari and Cherney also discovered that not a single incident of tree spiking could be shown to have saved a single stand of forest, ever, anywhere!  Even in the cases where spiking seemed to work, the evidence was at most inconclusive, and in all likelihood, the victory resulted from other factors. In some cases, however, it was easily shown that spiking actually resulted in the defeat of forest defense campaigns, because the act often fractured loose coalitions that otherwise would have succeeded, based on the momentum they were building against the corporate timber adversary. Judi Bari wrote a detailed, two-part expose of these conclusions, which was eventually published in the Earth First! Journal in 1994, but only after it had been published in the Anderson Valley Advertiser in 1993 (a local community based newspaper sympathetic to Earth First! at the time).

Most Earth First!ers outside of northwestern California and southern Oregon remained unconvinced, however, and to make matters worse, Judi Bari began to experience a further backlash--including from some who agreed with her stance on tree spiking, because, by 1994, she had come to believe that Earth First! should also not engage in monkeywrenching of any sort. This fed into a commonly held (but false) opinion that Bari was trying to defang Earth First! entirely and transform it into the Sierra Club or (worse still) the Green Party. However, if anyone had bothered to read what Bari actually wrote, she wasn't arguing that monkeywrenching shouldn't occur--quite the opposite, in fact. What she was advocating is that, if monkeywrenching were to be done, it should not be associated with or publicized by Earth First!, and instead carried out anonymously, "by the elves in the woods" (so-to-speak).

Bari's argument against publicly linking Earth First! to monkeywrenching made sense on several counts. First of all, at least in northwestern California (but quite often elsewhere), the actual timber cutting was carried out not by the corporation that held title to the land and was profiting from the harvest, but subcontractors, known as "gyppos" who bid for the work and earned their pay doing piece-work. The individual gyppo firms also had to pay for their own equipment. Damaging that would have no appreciable impact on the large corporations actually profiting from the destruction, but it would give the gyppo loggers every incentive to ally themselves with their corporate overseers, and provide the latter an easy wedge divide the workers and environmentalists. Furthermore, considering the lengths to which the FBI was willing to go to try and discredit Earth First!--and that included not only framing Bari and Cherney as the perpetrators of their own bombing, but also the establishing of an entrapment operation the previous year, in Arizona, in which a government infiltrator tried to set up other Earth First!ers and nudge them to engage in the highly irresponsible and dangerous act of sabotaging powerlines--it made no strategic sense to openly take responsibility for acts that were almost certain to get one declared an "eco-terrorist".

To be certain, Bari could have made a convincing case that monkeywrenching doesn't really work as advertised either. The vast majority of equipment sabotage is actually carried out by disgruntled workers individually (a fact that Earth First!er, George Draffan once pointed out, even before Judi Bari joined Earth First!)--though it's hardly effective at impacting the bosses' pocketbooks, because it's not done with any collective consciousness. To make matters worse, most business related insurance accounts for such acts. In some cases, the bosses have engaged in equipment sabotage themselves (thus committing insurance fraud). While some get caught, many don't. In any case, the byzantine nature of insurance law and the well established tendency of the capitalist class to externalize social costs--including individual acts of sabotage (whether by eco-guerillas, disgruntled workers, or the bosses)--simply passes the costs onto the rest of us.

On the other hand, the argument that Bari was attempting to defang Earth First! is sheer nonsense. Bari continued to advocate the use of collectively organized and overt direct action until the day she died, including the use of tree sits, road blockades, forest occupations, and the like. And to be absolutely certain, though she continued to push for making alliances with timber workers, she, herself, still--as much as she could, given her injuries that resulted from the bombing--engaged in actions that would directly thwart attempts at logging, such as at Enchanted Meadow, near Albion, California, in 1992 (and sometimes Timber Workers joined in those actions. One logger, Ernie Pardini, even conducted a tree-sit, in 1993).

One particular example, carried out during the Albion campaign, by a group of Earth First!ers (all women) employed the use of colorful knitting yarn to thwart the cutting of old growth redwoods by chainsaw wielding loggers. The activists snuck into the woods that included the proposed timber harvest the previous night, and wrap the yarn repeatedly around the trunks of the targeted trees. The yarn had the effect of making it impossible for the loggers to make their cut, because of its elasticity (chainsaws cut against the rigidity of tree-bark). The only way the loggers could remove the colorful enhancements was to cut each strand individually with scissors, thus greatly slowing down the pace of the work, costing the timber harvesting corporation, (again, Louisiana-Pacific), time and money. This tactic offered all of the promised benefits of tree spiking, but endangered no one. Far from opposing the act, Judi Bari praised it (and some of the loggers found it amusing). Bari also noted that yarning--in contrast to the very machismo-ridden act of tree spiking--was perceived as a very feminine act of aikido, which might explain why just about all of the tree spiking advocates (who were typically men) never mentioned it!  (In addition to having a bias against class struggle, many of the Earth First! old guard were, in Judi Bari's opinion, thoroughly misogynistic, a view supported by the oversexed looking women in some early Earth First! imagery.)

Yet, to this day, in spite of the evidence against the effectiveness of tree spiking as a tactic, many Earth First!ers still insist on keeping it in the arsenal--even if almost never used. One even went as far as to claim that tree spiking does work, and cited the fact that Cove-Mallard (in Idaho) still stands because of it (a claim he made with no supporting evidence, after repeating the nonsensical opinion that Judi Bari "tried to turn Earth First! into an NGO" and the usual inaccuracies about her being against using effective tactics and defanging the movement). In response to this, then, and now, I offer a further argument, that Judi Bari never got around to making--but quite likely would were she alive today:

Even if tree spiking could be shown to have saved Cove Mallard (which it didn't), it's current status is only temporary. Even if no logger were ever to set foot into that forest again, it is not safe. Global Warming and the destruction of the web of life on Earth by capitalism threatens to wipe out all forests, everywhere, no matter how "protected" they might seem on paper. The systemic nature of capitalism demands that economies grow or die (an ideology Earth First!'s original inspirer, Ed Abbey, described as "the ideology of a cancer cell). Tree spiking cannot and will not prevent global warming. To combat the problem, we must overthrow capitalism entirely.  Doing so cannot be achieved by guerilla saboteurs alone. It requires a mass based movement of the working class (or--if one prefers--the 99%). Turning the argument that "urgency of the situation warrants tree spiking" on its head, the urgency of the situation requires a mass based movement that is intersectional, anti-capitalist, and uses a diversity of tactics, yes, but tactics which are effective. Tree spiking isn't, and there are equally effective tactics (such as yarning) which are. The hour grows late, and the debate should have long since been settled by now. I submit that Judi Bari is correct. Earth First!--in fact all direct action environmentalists--should renounce tree spiking.  Our very survival just might depend on it.

And to those who doubt that such movements can be built, in the opening months of 2015, there have been alliances forged between oil refinery workers and climate justice activists, railroad workers and front line communities opposed to crude-by-rail, airport union workers supporting those who oppose airport expansion, and more. Large environmental NGOs (in spite of all of their faults and flaws, which are many) such as the Sierra Club and 350.ORG have called for environmentalists to support the Fight for $15 (flaws and all). The path ahead seems quite clear to me. The future of radical environmentalism and eco-defense will not be centered around the elves in the woods--though those elves may certainly be there. The fight will be at the point of production--where the lynchpin of capitalism has always been. Some tools need to be retired from the toolbox entirely, but don't worry, there's still plenty in there. Let our survival and the survival of all species on Earth not be sacrificed on the altar of sacred tactics that once defined a movements identity. Put the spikes back in the bag, and the hammer back in the toolbox. We don't need them.

For Judi Bari.

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.